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Archive for May, 2007

Calm before the storm

- In less than 24 hours, the Cannes Film Festival will open with Wong Kar-Wai’s English feature debut My Blueberry Nights. I’m not going to be in France, and as an example of positive thinking, I don’t think I’ll ever be at the Cannes Film Festival. Nevertheless, I will try and keep track of the Asian films playing and selling there over the next 12 days.

The Hollywood Reporter has a roundup of the Asian presence at Cannes this year(not including the marketplace).

- The promotion for opening film My Blueberry Nights is getting out there. I found a promotional kit floating online that offers some beautiful stills(link is .pdf), and Twitch has the poster, which for some inexplicable reason places star Norah Jones in the little corner.

- Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, and Johnnie To’s Triangle is no slouch either, as Twitch has also found the film’s own promotional kit online. It’s definitely worth a look.

- Enough with festival stuff for now, let’s get to some box office.

Variety Asia reports that the Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara-penned war drama “For Those We Love” opened pretty big this weekend, when that’s actually not really the case. Eiga Consultant reports that the film actually opened a lot weaker than similar war films. Compared to “Otoko Tachi No Yamato,” which opened on less screens, “For Those We Love” made only 53% of its opening in December 2005. When compared to “Letters From Iwo Jima,” which Ishihara panned to make his own film sound better, the opening is only 37% of Iwo Jima’s. Both films opened around the same year-end period and had similar final gross. At least it might make back its budget.

- In other Japanese box office news, seems like Gegege no Kitaro is now poised to be the highest-grossing film in the “Yokai” genre(I guess mythical creatures would be the best way to translate that).

- In Japanese drama ratings, it stabilized slightly after the Golden Week holiday in Japan.

See here for all drama information.

Proposal Daisakuen (also known as Operation Love) regains its footing for its 4th episode with a 16.4 rating. As you can see, the rating for this week’s episode even went up (more on that next week). It’s now currently the highest-rated drama this season.

Looks like Sexy Voice and Robo found a fan base, as the ratings are now floating around the 7.0 range for 3 weeks now. We’ll see if that happens for the 4th week later tonight when the Tuesday ratings are up.

The biggest disappointment of the season Joudan Janai! (which sounds like it would fit right in as an American sitcom) also seem to have found a fan base, as the ratings are now staying around the 14.0 range. Considering that Yuji Oda’s last TV Drama Last Christmas had a 21.5 average, this does not bode well for Yuji Oda’s future career in TV.

The Oricon website has compiled a ranking of the satisfaction rate for the current dramas. So far, it’s the returning drama Kaette Kita Jikou Keisatsu, followed by the comic adaptation Liar Game, and Operation Love in 3rd place. Sexy Voice and Robo and Joudan Janai are at 8th and 9th place, respectively.

- Korea Pop Wars has a pretty thorough analysis of Korea’s box office this past weekend. Spiderman 3 continues to reign, but it’s not reigning very well - the opening boom was there, but staying power simply isn’t. This actually gave a chance for Asian films to perform pretty well at the box office.

- In today’s “bad idea” file, director Kirk Wong is possibly casting his remake of the classic Hong Kong martial arts film “Five Deadly Venoms” with Jay Chou, Edison Chen, and Maggie Q. I haven’t seen the original, and I’m already dreading this.

- This weekend, 7 films will try and bring down Spiderman 3, including two of the Herman Yau films I mentioned yesterday. Another one of them is the Mainland Chinese thriller “The Matrimony,” starring Leon Lai and Rene Liu. Variety already has a review.

- In case anyone cares, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka is finally making money.

- The MPA is launching a new anti-piracy campaign in Asia with new trailers in theatres. Which makes me wonder whether those trailers in America with the explosion expert talking about how hard he worked for the movies worked in the first place, when every opinion I’ve read of it has been overwhelmingly negative? And what makes them think that the guilt mentality is going to work?

- In other stupid media tactics, the New York Post talks about how American broadcasters are trying to keep viewers tuned in during commercials. I have to say I had no idea what was going on in that Fox cab driver thing, but it sure was annoying.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/14/07

As mentioned in the entry today, I’ve now become a fan of the Japanese band The Blue Hearts, even though they have broken up for about 12 years now. So today’s song of the day would be pretty obvious. It’s The Blue Hearts’ Linda Linda.

You must be wondering why I don’t post the cover featured in the film Linda Linda Linda, whose soundtrack offers two Blue Hearts cover tracks, while the spinoff EP offers 3? That’s because the trailers actually refrained from showing it, giving me the impression that the band’s final performance should be something that’s earned throughout the film. So why would I ruin your potential enjoyment (especially now that the film is available on an English-subtitled region 1 DVD) of that by posting the clip here?

Of course, if you don’t really care, here it is anyway.

The blog that never ends


Today’s entry title refers to the Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, who has a huge presence in the film I saw last night. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Linda Linda Linda doesn’t play out like a crowdpleaser - it doesn’t have the dramatic flair of the usual high school girls films, nor is it outrageously hilarious like Shinobu Yaguchi’s Swing Girls - and yet, it’s so easy to get excited about it. The basic plot is fairly formulaic, with 4 girls overcoming obstacles to play in the big school fair, but its approach is so subdued and natural that I was surprised that I could muster up such enthusiasm for a film that intentionally doesn’t have much of a climax. The girls work hard, they bond, some kind of screw-up happens (which actually was such a natural thing to happen that I’m surprised I didn’t think of it), and they still play in the big show. There’s no time for big dramatic moments, and that helps to capture an authentic sense of reality rarely seen in American teen films without appearing artistically pretentious. And best of all: The movie has no montages.

Naturally, the standout is Korean actress Bae Doona playing Korean exchange student/lead vocalist that was randomly recruited. Speaking very little Japanese, Bae captures the simple charm in her character, an outcast that finds real friends through pure coincidence. Scenes involving her interacting with unsuspecting characters, including a crush that managed to learn a bit of Korean for his confession to her, are often the funniest scenes in the film. Too bad the subtitles couldn’t capture when Bae is actually speaking Japanese or Korean when it was crucial to getting the joke of said confession scene.

Anyway, it’s a different creature from Swing Girls, but it’s great just the same. It’s not the most entertaining, but Linda Linda Linda is simply one of the better teen films from Asia in recent years, period. And even though I’m about 12 years late, I’ve just become a Blue Hearts fan. I’m gonna have to check out the lead singer’s latest works too.

- The story this weekend at the box office is again Spiderman 3. But unlike last weekend’s “holy shit!” reactions, this week is about disappointment.

At the Hong Kong Sunday box office, Spiderman 3 still scored an impressive HK$2.86 million on 88 screens, bringing its 13-day total to HK$42.8 million, smashing Night at the Museum’s record as the highest-grosser this year so far. AND it still has the upcoming weekend to dominate before those pirates come and sweep the box office away.

In Japan, it still made 593 million yen this past weekend, with a 51% drop (which is perfectly natural since last week was part of a major public holiday period. If you look closely, just about every remaining film on the top 6 dropped over 50%) for a 13-day total of over 4.3 billion yen. This already way surpassed the track record of the previous film in Japan.

On the other hand, North America actually saw quite a huge drop on the gross, even though it still made a very large US$58 million, because it suffered a 61% drop from last weekend. In comparison, Pirates of the Caribbean only saw a 54% drop in its second weekend after its record-breaking opening.

And in worldwide box office overall, it took an even bigger tumble, losing 63.5% of its business, despite still making $85 million total. It’s not good, but how can anyone ever call a film that’s made over US$600 million a commercial failure?

- That was fast. While Kiroi Namida is putting people in small theaters, Isshin Inudou also has a more commercial film just opening in theaters. Bizan, starring Nansko Natsushima, opened in 291 screens this past weekend, making 135 million yen for a 4th place opening, right behind “For Those We Love,” which made an unspectacular 178 million yen. But that’s another story.

Anyway, according to Eiga Consultant, Bizan’s opening is 104% of the opening for Natsushima’s previous film Inugamike no Ichizoku and 125% of Gege, the previous adaptation of the author’s work. However, for the past 3 years, Toho opened huge hits Umizaru: Limit of Love, Negotiator(The Bayside Shakwdown spinoff), and Crying Out for Love in the Center of the World around this period, so that makes Bizan’s opening a bit of a disappointment.

- Another pretty big news today surrounds John Woo’s Battle of Red Cliff yet again. According to Oriental Daily, and now pretty much around several Asian Entertainment news site, Chow Yun-Fat, who suddenly dropped out due to reasons that had people screaming “prima donna,” has rejoined the cast, but only in a cameo role that will have scenes opposite Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s character. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called an act public relations damage control.

- In Hollywood, there are also rumors flying around that Korean pop star Rain is joining the cast of the Wachowski Brother’s Speed Racer. After the free publicity Stephen Colbert gave him last week on the Colbert Report, I wouldn’t be surprised.

- Herman Yau may just be the low-budget genre version of Johnnie To. Aside from Gong Tau opening this Thursday, he also have 2 more movies coming up - Whispers and Moans, which was shown at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and was just reviewed by Kozo of Lovehkfilm, and Mob Story, which I’m sorry to say looks kind of bad. Twitch has links to all three trailers.

- Instead of more real news, Variety Asia posted reports on Asia’s current three biggest film regions - Japan, which is seeing independent distributors growing, China, where small distributors are beginning to take on the state-run China Films, and South Korea, where indie films are sadly getting bruised by the big bad Hollywood blockbusters.

- Malaysian native Tsai Ming-Liang is back in Malaysia with his latest film I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, but it ran into trouble with its censors. Tsai managed to make a compromise, making five cuts from the film himself, though the film will only be screened in one theater for two weeks. Good thing Tsai is also very good at selling his movie.

But Tsai isn’t going to take this lying down. He believes that now I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone will play in Malaysia in its truncated version, it’ll open up talks about censorship. He argues that wouldn’t have happened if the film had simply gotten banned. The Twitch link above has links to the two reports in the local press.

- Somewhere out there, Asian film fans are about to pull their hairs out because Jeffrey Wells doesn’t realize what he’s missing out on just because he can’t stay up for an extra couple of hours. Hell, I would’ve caught a 3 am screening if it meant being able to watch the world premiere of Triangle.

- A film that I’ve grown to look forward to is Hong Kong director/UFO staple Samson Chiu’s latest film Call Me Left, which chronicles the journey of a middle-aged man through the ten post-handover years of Hong Kong. It looks like a male version of Golden Chicken without the sex, but with parodies of Communist propaganda.

- Lastly, Twitch looks ahead to the summer months in Singaporean cinema, including the latest from I Not Stupid director Jack Neo.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/13/07

Today’s song of the day needs little introduction because it’s already fairly well-known to anyone that listens to Japanese music. It was, after all, only one of the biggest hit singles of 2004 to the biggest movie in Japan in 2004. It’s also just simply a really good song. Originally from the album SENTIMENTALovers and now the compilation album Utabaka, it’s Ken Hirai’s “Hitomi wo Tojite” (Eyes Closed).

Best of Golden Rock - May 7th to May 13th.

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from May 7th to May 13th:

- Johnnie To is no longer under the control of Dennis Law. Milky Way Image, which is under Law, can no longer afford To’s movies, so To decided to just buy his way out, taking two subsidiaries, which includes his own Milkyway Image, and his production team with him. Once the split is approved, Law’s company will no longer be Milkyway, but Brilliant Arts (which is just plain ironic, considering Law’s quality of work).

- The controversial Summer Palace by Suzhou River’s Lou Ye, which was banned by the Chinese government, just picked up the Golden Durian award at the Barcelona Asian Film Festival. Er..I hope they know that a Durian may be the foulest-smelling fruit in existence (it’s also very delicious, but it stinks very much). Hey, next year, they’re focusing on Hong Kong films. Good for them.

- Under kind of exciting news, Kenta Fukusaku announced that his latest film will be more like the hardcore masculine action movie his father Kinji Fukusaku used to make and a “real fight movie.” If it’s going to be anything like Kinji’s Yakuza Papers series, I can already tell it’s going to be quite good. Just look at who he has for his star.

- Holy crap, it’s the trailer for Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen’s Flash Point. Dig it. (Thanks to Beat TG on the Lovehkfilm Forum for the link)

- Darcy Paquet over at Koreanfilm.org updated his site with his thoughts on 2007 Korean cinema so far. It just made me more excited about Sai Yaichi’s Soo.

- Looks like Hollywood is singing the tune “blame Canada” these days after Warner Bros. found that 70% of the camera-recorded pirated versions of their films come from Canada. Since then, Warner Bros. have canceled all advanced screenings of their films, and 20th Century Fox is contemplating delaying releases for major films in Canada. Believe it or not, since Canada has no laws banning recording films in cinemas, it’s now one of the major piracy nations in the world.

- The first trailer for Benny Chan’s Invisible Targets is up, and wow. It’s not a very long clip, but it has a lot of crap blowing up, people jumping off stuff, and even has Nicholas Tse getting hit by a bus. It’ll probably have a crappy story with overacting everywhere, but this looks like a pretty promising action flick.

- The “King of Foreign Otaku” contest was on TV in Japan two nights ago, and Japan Probe has a report on it with short clips (the link he provides to the contest on Youtube is already gone. Well-played, TV Tokyo). And the winner is from Hong Kong! Represent!

Wait. Upon closer inspection, the guy’s name is Cheng Ga Fai….isn’t that the former radio host who specializes in Japanese pop culture?! I actually have one of his Tokyo guidebooks. Crazy…

- Do they really need to do this? The head of the Motion Pictures Association John G. Malcolm is going all the way to Japan to encourage crackdowns on piracy and to congratulate Osaka police for taking down groups that produce and sell pirated films in the region. Of course, what Malcolm doesn’t know is that he’s thanking the worst police force in the country.

- Thanks to the Trailer Blog, we have our first look at Ang Lee’s Lust Caution, starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. It’s part of a reel from Focus Features, who also distributed Lee’s previous film Brokeback Mountain. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Lust Caution is expected to be released in the United States in September. No word on the Asia release date, though.

- While France is seeing decreased admissions in its cinema, every cloud has a silver lining. It’s not French cinema that’s failing in France, it’s the Americans! I suppose they might be quite happy about that.

- “For Those We Love,” the Japanese WWII film about kamikaze pilots written by Tokyo’s ultra-nationalistic governor Shintaro Ishihara, opened on Saturday in Japan. I was afraid the film would glorify people who were essentially government-sanctioned suicide bombers in a time of war. Turns out the film may not be the right-wing-lovefest people were afraid that it was going to be.

Ohayo

Updating a little early today because of a meeting during the day, and i wanted to get the rest of the weekend news out of the way before they get outdated.

- As mentioned yesterday, Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To’s Triangle has been approved to go to Cannes. Now Twitch not only has that sexy film noir-ish poster (look in the comments for a full-sized version), but also a plot sypnosis and stills. For the life of me, I can’t figure out who that guy in the glasses is, though.

- While France is seeing decreased admissions in its cinema, every cloud has a silver lining. It’s not French cinema that’s failing in France, it’s the Americans! I suppose they might be quite happy about that.

- “For Those We Love,” the Japanese WWII film about kamikaze pilots written by Tokyo’s ultra-nationalistic governor Shintaro Ishihara, opened on Saturday in Japan. I was afraid the film would glorify people who were essentially government-sanctioned suicide bombers in a time of war. Turns out the film may not be the right-wing-lovefest people were afraid that it was going to be.

- In related news, looks like the film itself will be a moderate hit. Apparently, Toei is already predicting a 2 million total admission and 2.5 billion yen final box office gross, which doesn’t make it that big of a hit, considering the film took 1.8 billion yen to make.

- Twitch has compiled a round-up of impressive cgi battle scenes, which included a personal guilty pleasure Starship Troopers. I honestly don’t understand why this movie is so hated in the court of cinematic crimes.

- Paramount once had a park here in the bay area - Paramount’s Great America. The park is still open, but the report I’ll be linking below says that Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, gave the parks to CBS, who ended up selling those to another company, which means Great America isn’t really a Paramount park anymore.

Anyway, my point is that Paramount is looking to get into the theme park business again, this time in Korea, and this time not really investing into it. I had really hoped Paramount would’ve done something like Universal studios in terms of creating a movie-like experience. Instead, it turned into just another theme park with roller coasters and irrelevantly cute fluffy animal characters.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/12/07

Today’s song of the day took a bit of research. I chose this song not only because it’s good, not only because it was from one of my favorite sleeper albums from 2005 (you know, the quiet ones that never get noticed that has OK sales), but because I wanted to use this new Japanese video service I found. Because of the song’s title, I ended doing some research because the song’s name is actually a real train station in Osaka. From Aiko, it’s Mikuni Eki.

Standards

A bit of everything today, but actually quite a bit of reviews.

- Japan Times offers us three reviews this weekend. The most intriguing one is Tony Takitani director Jun Ishikawa’s latest Ashita No Watashi Tsukurikata, which from the plot description and trailer sounds like a pretty good movie. It’s currently playing on limited release at these theaters (if you are in Japan and is interested in this movie, you ought to be able to read it anyway). Kaori Shoji, meanwhile, reviews Panasian film Invisible Waves by Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Lastly, they also have a review of the MTV-affiliated documentary Just For Kicks, which is about hip-hop and sneakers……I guess?

- Thanks to the Trailer Blog, we have our first look at Ang Lee’s Lust Caution, starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. It’s part of a reel from Focus Features, who also distributed Lee’s previous film Brokeback Mountain. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Lust Caution is expected to be released in the United States in September. No word on the Asia release date, though.

- I had previously expressed my disappointment that the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaboration Triangle didn’t get invited to the Canne official lineup. Turns out they were waiting for the Chinese censors to clear the film (which they didn’t do with last year’s Summer Palace by Lou Ye), which was likely because of its “uncontroversial content.” Now it’s been cleared, and it’s part of the out of competition lineup. No idea when this will be released in Hong Kong, though. More news on Triangle tomorrow.

- I recently saw a link on Mobius Home Theater Forum to the results of a readers’ poll on they consider to be the 40 best foreign films of all time. I agree with one of the posters on the board that says it’s unfair to place all non-English films as simply foreign films. Maybe I’m just the resident Asian film fanatic who doesn’t know better, but I’m more bothered by the fact that 32 of the films are made by the Western world than the fact that Amelie actually got second place.

- With the surge of Korean national cinema, it’s about time that they recognize some of the classics. For the first time, several classic Korean films will be registered as national cultural heritage materials. Considering film restoration was virtually non-existent in Korean, it’s amazing that these films survived through the war.

That’s it for today. A few more news tidbits tomorrow.

Nippon Friday

Before I get into the Japan news, let’s get into some Hong Kong box office business first -

- A total of five films opened in Hong Kong on Thursday opening day, and that would naturally take away quite a few screens from Spiderman 3. Losing about 40 screens, Spidey still made HK$1.12 million on 81 screens for a 10-day total of HK$34.71 million. Expect another fairly big weekend (maybe 2-3 million per day?) and smooth sailing for the $50 million record mark until those pirates come along.

The biggest opening this week is the sequel 28 Weeks Later. On 27 screens, the zombie horror film made $300,000, and may do OK for the weekend with about HK$500,000 per day. The Japanese blockbuster Umizaru: Limit of Love (which made an astonishing US$60 million-plus box office take last year, despite the ratings for the drama and the original film’s gross not all that spectacular.), which is playing in Hong Kong right after the end of the drama’s run on TV, made only HK$120,000 on 14 screens. Expect TV fans either having already downloaded this or just waiting to catch this on home video instead. Fracture also opened on 15 screens with only $100,000 on opening day, Priceless, starring Audrey Tautou and just opened last month here in the United States, made HK$60,000 on 7 screens, and the Singaporean blockbuster “Just Follow the Law” crashes and burn with just HK$10,000 on 7 screens.

Lastly, Herman Yau’s Gong Tau, which has a strange release date of Tuesday the 15th (I think it might be a Chinese thing), did OK with its advance midnight shows. On 15 screens, it made only HK$50,000, which is decent, considering it’s only one show on a weeknight. There will be more midnight shows through the weekend, which might help earn some buzz that it desperately needs.

- A Japanese streaming video site has the teaser for Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “Dai Nipponjin,” which just joined the Director’s Fortnight lineup at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s OK, I have no idea what the hell was going on in that teaser either.

- The previously-mentioned “King of Foreign Otaku” contest was on TV in Japan two nights ago, and Japan Probe has a report on it with short clips (the link he provides to the contest on Youtube is already gone. Well-played, TV Tokyo). And the winner is from Hong Kong! Represent!

Wait. Upon closer inspection, the guy’s name is Cheng Ga Fai….isn’t that the former radio host who specializes in Japanese pop culture?! I actually have one of his Tokyo guidebooks. Crazy…

- Kiroi Namida, starring boy band Arashi, opened April 14th at just one theater in Tokyo. After its expansion on April 28th to 31 screens nationwide (considering this is starring a fairly popular pop group, why not open it wider?). Eiga Consultant reports that it has since recorded over 107,000 viewers after 4 weeks (that’s a good thing), and that it’s pretty much attracting everyone from their 20s to their 60s (thanks to Arashi, director Isshin Inudou, and the writers of both the screenplay and the original novel.). The trailer actually looks pretty good, proving that boy bands in Japan don’t necessarily always make bad movies.

- Sakuran is coming to DVD on August 3rd, and this time, it has English subtitles! As much as I am looking forward to this one, too bad I won’t be able to afford it.

- This took a while. The Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization in Japan (did anyone actually know this existed?) formed a new Broadcasting Ethics Verification Committee that will investigate false information on factual TV programs. Call me a cynic, but I predict bureaucracy and politics to get in the way of getting any actual work done on this committee.

- Do they really need to do this? The head of the Motion Pictures Association John G. Malcolm is going all the way to Japan to encourage crackdowns on piracy and to congratulate Osaka police for taking down groups that produce and sell pirated films in the region. Of course, what Malcolm doesn’t know is that he’s thanking the worst police force in the country.

- With at least four Chinese films and one Japanese documentary being made about the Nanjing Massacre, a Japanese government official is saying to make sure the facts are “not distorted.” What part does he not want distorted, he didn’t specify, but I have a feeling it might the part that has something to do with Japanese soldiers killing Chinese people.

That’s it for today. More tomorrow, including Japan Times reviews.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/11/07

Today’s song of the day comes earlier than the usual entry because I can’t wait to share it. It’s not a real song, but it’s good enough to earn the title. I present to you: Stephen Colbert’s Korean pop song

Here’s the video he was lampooning

 
 
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